Successful Step-parenting: If Ozzy Osbourne Can Do It, So Can You!

Posted at 19:57pm on 8th October 2009

I was asked by BBC Radio Birmingham to be their 'expert' on this morning's discussion on step-parenting. I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve been interviewed in connection with my book, Stepfamilies, but I suppose, given that something like one in eight British children are now growing up in a blended family, it’s a hot topic.

STEP-CHILDREN: SOMETIMES THEY GET ON, SOMETIMES THEY DON’T

Ozzy Osborne kicked off the discussion in the studio, by admitting that his children from his first marriage and those from his second (to Sharon) "sometimes get on, and sometimes don't".

Following my interview, in which I set out the three areas which I believe have to be given priority in a stepfamily, a lady called Victoria rang in to the programme. She and her husband, her biological child and stepchildren all live together as one big happy family. Asked by the presenter, Joanne Mailer, if she ever had problems, she agreed that sometimes - if, for instance, she buys her boy new trainers (he's her only child) - her husband will point out that she's favoured her boy over his two.

IS A STEPFAMILY ANY DIFFERENT TO A BIOLOGICAL FAMILY?

But this is the point, isn't it? In some respects a stepfamily is no different to a biological family. As I said on the programme when Joanne queried whether having a plan always works - neither does it work, necessarily, in an all-biological family. You'll always have one child who feels it's "not fair", or that a sibling is the "favourite".

Okay, stepfamilies are more complex in their relationships, and there are unique issues to be addressed. But for your own sanity, as step-parents, it’s as well to remember that all families have their problems from time to time.

HOW TO GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

Talking and feedback is an excellent way of resolving conflict. This is a technique whereby you all sit around a table together and agree to abide by three simple rules:

  1. Only one person gets to speak at a time. It’s a good idea to have an object for the speaker to hold (and pass on to the next speaker) so there’s no argument about whose turn it is.
  2. When the speaker has finished, you take it in turns to feedback what you have understood they've been saying – again without interruption.
  3. The original speaker then gets to say - without interruption - if they feel they've had a fair hearing and have been properly understood. If not, repeat the process until everyone's happy.

This method works because it gives everyone a fair chance to put forward their argument, to hear the other side of the case, and to report back on their understanding. You can then decide, between you, to try out a different approach for a set period of time, as an experiment to see if it works for everyone. Repeat the process until you find a solution.

And if the worst comes to the worst and you’re facing a serious problem on which no common ground can be found, ask a trusted friend to be arbiter.

PARENT/STEP-PARENT RELATIONSHIP IS PARAMOUNT: YOU'RE THE ADULTS!

Remember, the stability of parent and step-parent relationship is paramount, because that’s what gives the children and step-children their security. You’re the adult. Don’t let the children make you behave like a child!

Ozzy Osbourne, I was told by the producer this morning, was – much to her relief – very restrained, with no effing or blinding. If he can do it, so can you!

Write in if you're part of a stepfamily and have a story to tell - either a problem you've overcome; or a success story. We'd love to hear it and benefit from your experience.

Related posts:

Successful Step-parenting: Three Potential Pitfalls – No 1 Financial
Successful Step-parenting: Three Potential Pitfalls – No 2 Coping With Step-Children
Successful Step-parenting: Three Potential Pitfalls – No 3 Contact With Absent Parent

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